BAGHDAD: Islamic State militants overran one of the last remaining districts held by government forces in the Iraqi city of Ramadi on Sunday and besieged a key army base on the edge of the western provincial capital, security sources said.
The militants seized most of Ramadi on Friday, planting their black flag on the local government headquarters in the centre of the city, but a contingent of Iraqi special forces was holding out in the Malaab neighborhood.
Security sources said those forces retreated on Sunday to an area east of the city after suffering high casualties, and the insurgents were closing in on the Anbar Operations Command to the west.
“We are now surrounded inside the Operations Command by Daesh, and mortars are raining down,” said a military officer inside the base. Daesh is an Arabic acronym for Islamic State.
“Daesh fighters are in almost every street. It's a chaotic situation and things are sliding out of control. Ramadi is falling into the hands of Daesh,” the officer said.
If Ramadi were to fall, it would be the first major city to be seized by the insurgents in Iraq since security forces and paramilitary groups began pushing them back last year, helped by air strikes from a U.S.-led coalition.
Over a period of 24 hours up to 0500 GMT on Sunday, the coalition carried out seven air strikes near Ramadi, according to a statement — the highest number on any single location in Iraq and Syria.
Ramadi is the capital of Anbar, Iraq's largest province, and one of just a few towns and cities to have remained under government control in the vast desert terrain, which borders Saudi Arabia, Syria and Jordan. – REUTERS